As goes California, so goes the Nation?

California solarJust a month after the U.S. submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UNFCCC Secretariat, California Governor Jerry Brown has announced new, ambitious GHG emission mitigation goals for the state. While the U.S. is being chided internationally for its INDCs’ lack of mitigation and adaptation “ambition,” California is getting the limelight for stepping up.Brown’s executive order issued on April 29th “sharply speeds up this state’s already ambitious program” to reduce GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 (off the 1990 baseline emissions). This goal, ensconced in California’s first-in-the-nation climate change law, AB32, was viewed as visionary – if not unachievable – when enacted in 2006. Under this week’s order, the state will have the interim goal of reducing emission by 40% – the halfway point – by 2030.

In announcing the new target, Governor Brown highlighted its role in giving more precise direction to the energy industry and the state itself for making investment and regulatory decisions that move one of the top ten economies in the world toward its 2050 goal.

“It’s a real test,” Mr. Brown, a Democrat, said in a speech at an environmental conference in downtown Los Angeles. “Not just for California, not just for America, but for the world. Can we rise above the parochialisms, the ethnocentric perspectives, the immediacy of I-want-I-need, to a vision, a way of life, that is sustainable?”

But of course it comes at a cost. A recent study reports that to reach this new goal, California will need to double the energy efficiency of buildings and industry, source 50-60% of its electricity from wind and solar, and spur a significant increase in hybrid and zero-emission cars. It also projects that doing so will cost each Californian household $14/month.

With these targets, California becomes a major player in the upcoming COP21 negotiations in Paris, in the “ambition” company of the EU. Said Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC executive secretary of the conference, “California’s announcement is a realization and a determination that will gladly resonate with other inspiring actions within the United States and around the globe. It is yet another reason for optimism in advance of the U.N. climate conference in Paris in December.”